Comfort food from home

When we were growing up casseroles equalled comfort food.  They were prepared for  a family meal, a variety of different casseroles were cooked to feed a house full of guests, and they were central to cool weather fundraisers for the community.

Casserole luncheons brought the community together, with each family preparing a casserole to be placed on cloth covered trestle tables that had been set up for the occasion in the local hall.  There would be a small admission fee, raffles, maybe a cake stall, and all funds raised would be directed to a local community project, or to a cause that was close to the heart of the community.

While the casseroles back then were cooked in beautiful ovenproof dishes, dishes that could be taken straight from the oven to the table, I feel that they have somehow fallen out of fashion…  I suppose now, you could liken them to the modern day slow cooker dish.

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Mum’s Lamb Hotpot with Peas

Mum's Lamb Hot Pot with Peas

This is my idea of comfort food from home, one of the dishes my mum used to prepare, and we all loved it.

Category: Main, Main Course
Style: Australian
Keyword: Carrot, Hot Pot, Lamb, Peas
Quantity: 4
Author: My mum - Grace Flood
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 500 g lamb shoulder cut into 3cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp plain flour for gluten free option see note below
  • 60 g butter
  • 450 ml lamb or chicken stock
  • 250 g carrots chopped
  • 1 x 400g can of peas see note below
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160˚C.
  2. Toss the lamb in the flour.
  3. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.
  4. Fry the lamb, carrot and onion in the butter for 3 minutes.
  5. Stirring, add the stock and liquor from the peas.
  6. Season to taste, bring to boil and stir until thickend.
  7. Transfer to a casserole dish, cover with the lid and cook in preheated oven for 2 hours, adding the peas for last 15 minutes.
  8. Garnish with parsley.
Notes
  • This recipe needs canned peas, not fresh or frozen, and you will need to ensure that the canned peas are not "mushy" peas.
  • While Mum used diced lamb, I have also used lamb neck chops as well.
  • For gluten free:
    • I sautée the lamb and remove to casserole dish, then sautée the onion and carrot, add the stock and add that to the casserole dish.
    • To thicken, I add a slurry of potato flour and water about 5-10 minutes before it is done, the liquid will be bubbling, and by stirring it through for a minute, then replacing the lid and returning the dish to the oven, it cooks perfectly.
  • Perfect sides for this dish:
    • Mashed potato
    • Steamed cabbage
    • Steamed pumpkin

 

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Yum

 

 

 

Warm Salad of Sumac Marinated Lamb Backstrap with Chats & Green Beans

This is a firm favourite in our home, and perfect for this time of year.  In fact if you head to one of our local farmers’ markets, I am sure that you’ll be able to pick up most of the fresh ingredients, including the lamb, directly from the people who grow them.  You know me, I love to support local, to have a chat to the people who grow the food that we eat, and then to bring the produce home, cook it and eat it.

I discovered this recipe in one of my French cooking magazines, Cuisine Actuelle, some time ago, and then promptly forgot about it.   Flicking through my lamb scrap book recently, I was delighted to rediscover the recipe.

Here, beautiful lean lamb backstrap (from Forge Creek Lamb) is coated in a simple blend of olive oil, sumac and crushed garlic (fresh from our garden) and then set aside to marinate for a couple of hours before being cooked in a hot pan.  Once rested, the lamb is sliced to reveal the succulent, rose coloured centre, ready to become the star of the show in this delicious salad.

As usual, I just can’t help myself, and have adjusted the recipe to suit our tastes, including the addition of olives and capers.  I also swap the cherry tomatoes out for slow roasted Roma tomatoes if I feel like it.

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Paddock to Plate!

Part of what I am about is using local and home grown produce as much as I can, so recently I purchased another side of lamb from Forge Creek Lamb, and while you can select the cuts that you would like, I prefer to dress the lamb myself. You see I was raised on a sheep and grain farm about 500 km from where we now live, so am quite familiar with the various cuts of lamb, having observed and helped my mother and father dress many during my childhood and teenage years. One thing that I learnt was that there was very little waste. My mother was meticulous ensuring that all the meat was saved and frozen, even the tiniest of skerricks! Fat was rendered down and the fresh dripping was used to fry the BEST fish and chips – usually redfin fish that dad had caught, the bones were used to make stock for soups, the little bits were used to make pies, and so on.   So with that memory, I set to work.

Firstly I set up my kitchen – bowls each for meat to mince, casserole meat and sausage meat set up close to where I would be dressing the meat; a baking dish for the bones; a bag for the fat (I think we’re probably a little more wary of animal fat nowadays, so mainly use olive oil and peanut oil for frying) were close by; my stand mixer was set up and the mincing attachment placed in the fridge; knives steel, hacksaw and chopping boards were layed out; an area with my vacuum seal machine was set up with various sized bags at the ready; and, finally a pile of tea towels were stacked up. Then I set to work….

So this is what happened

  • The loin was boned out and tied at one inch intervals, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and then popped in the fridge for a while, before being cut into little noisettes.
  • Little cutlets were cut, their long rib bones were boned from the flap before being trimmed, and all of the excess fat was removed.

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  • The flap takes time as there is quite a bit of fat to be removed, and invariably you will end up with the odd hole here and there, but they are easily filled with some offcuts. When it was done, it was laid out flat on a large piece of plastic wrap and then rolled up ready for packaging and freezing. The flap is delicious filled with lamb sausage mince, rolled and wrapped in prosciutto and then cooked at low temperature for a while . It makes for a delicious hot meal with veg, but alternatively makes an amazing sliced cold meat for sandwiches or salad.
  • The shank was removed from the shoulder and Frenched.
  • The shoulder was partially boned out.
  • The neck takes quite a bit of work, removing the ribs and cutting the meat away from the vertebrae. But it is well worth the effort with the finished product rolled and slow cooked for a delicious warming meal.
  • The hind shank was removed from the leg and Frenched.
  • The hind leg was totally boned out and butterflied in readiness for summer family gatherings. It will be cooked on the BBQ.

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  • The chump was boned out.
  • Larger off-cuts were set aside for casserole and stir-fry
  • Smaller off-cuts were minced
  • Fattier off-cuts were minced together with seasonings to become sausage mince.
  • Finally the bones were roasted and then placed into a large stock pot with water, onion, celery, carrot, bay leaves and peppercorns and left to simmer away for a few hours. After being strained and allowed to set in the fridge, the fat was removed and the stock was pressure canned in Mason jars for use at a later date.

I know it sounds like a lot of work, and I can’t lie, it is! But I have a beautiful product to work with and the most amazing childhood memories to guide me along the way. I hope that my efforts have ensured that the lamb I cook has been treated with the utmost respect – from paddock to plate!

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Now with all this beautiful Forge Creek Lamb in the freezer, I have the delightful task of coming up with the best way to prepare and serve it. The first meal that I prepared with it used the little lamb noisettes. I simply pan fried them to pink and placed them on a small disk of fried potato.

To accompany these little noisettes we had steamed peas, baby broad beans and asparagus topped with roasted baby rainbow carrots. On the side I put a little roasted beetroot and goats cheese, and to finish it off, I prepared and a delicious sauce with the lamb stock, white wine and aromats. I was so happy with this plate of food, inspired by the lamb and a trip to the local farmer’s market where I purchased all the vegetables to accompany it.

Of course we had to have dessert – Tarte chantilly aux fruits rouges – a berry and cream pie with the first strawberries from our garden.

The work still continues on the corner patch, it is now fenced and has a gate. We’re still waiting for the timber to box the beds, but hopefully it will be ready next week! I have managed to get a few things planted though, including a Boysenberry.

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

Links:

Tarte chantilly aux fruits rouges – Berry & Cream Pie

Slow Cooked Lamb Chump

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

Glossary

Corner Patch

Forge Creek Lamb

 

Welcome visitors in the garden

Again, we have been busy in the garden…

The pool garden renovation is now complete and it looks wonderful, thanks to a lot of hard work put in by Gary, and the help of local tradies Johnno and Nic.

Finished!

I just helped by making lunches.

Lunches for the workers

All bar the fencing had been completed when some more wonderful friends arrived from Melbourne for a weekend break. It was so good to see my dear friend Beth again – it had been about seven months since we had seen each other. She and her husband, Steve, arrived late Friday afternoon, after battling the traffic to get out of town and we soon settled in for a lot of talking and a bit of eating. I had our dinner all but prepared when they arrived. A shoulder of lamb from Forge Creek Lamb was slowly cooking on the stove top with the veg prepared as well, including a favourite of Cauliflower Cheese, this time done with goat’s milk, and goat’s cheese, as well as a little parmesan. Dessert was a favourite, crème brulee.

Saturday morning after a lesson of poaching eggs in water, we all went to a farmer’s market in nearby Sale, stopping off on the way to buy some more beautiful fresh eggs for Beth to take home. The wind was quite strong and some of the stallholders weren’t prepared – we all hopped in and helped one dismantle her gazebo before it ended up the other side of town! But from then it was a nice, but blustery, stroll along, checking out what was on offer and for me, to collect my orders from Coltish Pork and Wuk Wuk Beef. Don’t you just love buying from the local farmers. Poor Gary was seen doing a few trips back and forth to the car with our meat and some lovely fresh vegetables!

Using some of the market purchases during the week

Back home we decide to have a BBQ lunch – albeit quite late. Which meant that a variety of sausages picked up at the market were now bound for the hotplate. Fortunately with the Natural Pork sausages being onion and garlic free, everyone could enjoy a sausage. We did, however, also add some of our home smoked hot and cold salmon to the table, along with a nice fresh citrusy salad and a gluten free pull-apart that I made up quickly.

We all enjoyed sitting out on the terrace, chatting, and after a lovely relaxing afternoon and weren’t sure that we’d be able to manage dinner! We did… So just a simple meal of Scotch Fillet (from the farmer’s market) with some mash and green beans, and for dessert… Chocolate Fondant with homemade Raspberry Sorbet!

Chcolate Fondant - Recipe Feature Image

Now whoever tells you that Chocolate Fondant is difficult to make is wrong!!! I have a book that I absolutely love,dsc05899-r “Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Band. Elizabeth is an American Journalist based in France and she writes the story of how she went out to lunch with a Frenchman, fell in love and ended up living in Paris. I love this book so much, that I have two copies! Earlier this year when my mother was visiting I wanted to make Chocolate Fondant for her birthday dinner, but horror, we could not find either copy of the book anywhere! Both my husband and I scoured the piles of books (at that stage we didn’t have our bookcases) but to no avail. So there was no Chocolate Fondant, just Nana’s Chocolate Cream Cake for the occasion. Not long after both copies came home – I had leant one copy to each of my sisters!

Anyway I digress!

During one of our wanders around the garden, Beth commented on the wasp/bee like insects that were thick and very active around the roses and the Kaffir Lime, I made the comment that maybe they liked aphids, as there were very few to be seen, which is unusual. So after they left I did a little research and discovered that they were Hover Flies, and guess what, they love aphids – I quickly declared these little insects to be welcome guests in our garden.

Moving on, this week Gary and I have erected our garden shed, mainly Gary, I should say. Although I was seen up a ladder on more than one occasion! I love our little shed, it fits perfectly with our house and garden, and it will be right down in the corner patch for quick and easy access.

As we were carrying the shed panels down to the Corner Patch, I was pointing out new flowers in the garden and Gary commented that he loved that even though we were in the middle of doing something, I could still take the time to look around and find things! I must say I am easily distracted in the garden, which is what happened as I was heading back to the house for something and noticed a large number of orange butterflies on the white hebes (a little research and I discovered these to be “Wanderer” Butterflies and apparently they are not so common in this area) – more welcome visitors in the garden. I just had to sit on the lawn and try to get a photograph – I failed as you can see.

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When I was not needed I worked at moving more dirt and setting out two more little beds, which will soon be home to rhubarb and asparagus, as well as being home to my treasured strawberry pots.

Finally, as a treat one night this week I made a delicious meal using another cut of Forge Creek Lamb Sumac and Garlic Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes and Yoghurt Sauce. I so love it when a recipe idea comes together so nicely.

Sumac and Garlic Lamb - Recipe Feature Image

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

Links:

Pool Garden

Chocolate Fondant

Sorbet

Sumac and Garlic Lamb with Roasted Tomatoes and Yoghurt Sauce

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